Being a parent is one of the most challenging tasks in life, but parenting teenagers can be the ultimate challenge. Teenagers endure immense changes in their lives, especially when it comes to their physical body and their hormones. When parenting teens it is inevitable that they will start to wonder about things such as dating and romance, and it might be a scary conversation to have.
While relationships and dating may be fun for teens, it also comes with risks that should be discussed with a parent or guardian in a safe environment. According to studies, one in three teens says that they know someone who has been physically assaulted by a dating partner. It is important to open the dialogue with your teen to discuss potential risks of dating violence, provide sex education and establish an open and safe space for conversation in your family in the event someone finds themselves in a risky situation.
“Before opening dialogue with your teen, it’s really important to have established trust,” says Shannon Wallmarker, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Specialist at Centerstone, “If they expect a negative reaction or judgment, they’re likely not going to be open to any kind of discussion.” When the space feels safe and comfortable for everyone, try to use open-ended questions to bring up the information you want them to know. Ask questions such as, What do you think a healthy relationship looks like? What do you think dating violence looks like? Use this as a way to educate your teen and let them view you as a reliable source of information.
Teen dating violence poses many risks that include psychologically abusive behaviors such as manipulation, isolation from friends and family and coercion in addition to physically abusive behaviors like sexual assault or domestic violence. Remember when you’re discussing sensitive information on topics like dating violence to also share examples of healthy relationships! Empowering your teen to recognize and use healthy behaviors when they start dating will help them to identify those red flags. Healthy relationship behaviors look like effective communication, mutual respect, honesty, compromise, problem-solving, understanding, confidence, individuality, responsibility and more.
“Consider the relationships that are being modeled in your teen’s life. What behaviors are present? Really try to make an effort and model those healthy behaviors for your teen,” says Wallmarker. There are many risks to dating, but parents might be able to implement these practices and stay involved to better notice red flags or behaviors that might be unsafe for your teen:
There are many lessons that teens and parents can learn from each other so try to create a space that is full of safety and education for your family.
If you or someone you know is experiencing dating violence or mental health struggles, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) for more information.
If you are in crisis, please call our crisis line, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
If you're still having trouble and would like to reach out to someone about counseling or other Centerstone services, contact us.
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